“We’re writing to let you know that from the 17th of May 2020 we’re no longer going to process standing order payments to the UK charity Interpal (the working name for the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund),” the letter read.
“As part of a global bank sometimes we may decide to prevent certain transactions even if they are allowed under local laws. We recognise you may be disappointed with this decision and we’re sorry for any inconvenience it may cause.”
Speaking to TRT World about the bank’s move, Interpal’s Vice Chairman Essam Yousef said they were not given any prior notice or explanation. “It came as a surprise to us when some of our donors brought it to our attention.
Although the bank admits that we are a legal organisation in the UK and it’s legal for the donors to support us as a charity, they tell the donors that ‘HSBC will not process their standing orders.’ And they are asking the donors to cancel their standing orders. Very shocking news indeed.”
Essam condemned HSBC’s decision to block the payments to Palestinians, stating: “They have no shame, no mercy for denying small children the little life support we provide.”
Ibrahim Hewitt, chairman of the board of trustees of Interpal, also sharply criticised HSBC on Twitter writing: “In the middle of a deadly pandemic, and the month of Ramadan, what does @HSBC choose to do? Block standing orders from Muslim donors trying to help Palestinians in desperate need. Absolute disgrace.”
Awful and inhumane
HSBC’s decision hit the Muslim community hard as Interpal supporters expressed disappointment social media and shared emotional posts as their donations to orphans are blocked during Ramadan, a period of deep spiritual reflection and fasting that takes place every year.
“In #Ramadan, @HSBC_UK stopped standing orders to an orphan girl in Palestine (via Interpal) despite not breaking any law. Assuming not a one-off but a policy decision (on risk appetite of Interpal?), how many children will starve due to this decision?” tweeted Miqdaad Versi, Director of the Muslim Council of Britain.
Essam says this “awful, inhumane and unlawful act” will have a heavy impact on their operations during Ramadan. “It will definitely impact the welfare of the children in need badly,” he added, urging the supporters of the Palestinian people to boycott HSBC.
“At the same time we urge the donors to continue their efforts to sponsor these children by all means; even by cash donations because we, as a charity, will continue our work to ensure our donations are going to reach the same children insha’Allah. We have full trust in our donors to take serious action against the bank including the withdrawal of their accounts with HSBC.”
In a statement, Interpal said: “The Trustees and dedicated staff of Interpal are extremely disappointed that a legitimate British charity is denied vital services to appease those who act on behalf of an alien state to prevent humanitarian aid getting to the Palestinians. Such efforts to politicise the charity sector are immoral and harmful to poor people at their most vulnerable. The management at HSBC should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for collaborating in this dishonourable practice.”
Previously HSBC has shut down other Muslim charity or groups accounts. The Finsbury Park Mosque, the Ummah Welfare Trust and the Cordoba Foundation’s bank accounts were closed in 2014, whereas Islamic Relief’s account was shut down in 2016. The only reason given for closures was that to continue providing services would be outside the bank’s “risk appetite”.
When we asked Essam why it has hit Interpal this time, he said: “For sure, it’s due to ‘political stance’ toward Muslims. This is totally discrimination against Muslims and Muslim organisations. HSBC is well known for supporting the illegal activities of the illegal settlement in Israel.”
In 2018, over 24,000 people emailed HSBC with concern over its investments in companies selling weapons to Israel’s military. Activists came together to protest outside 40 different HSBC branches across the UK over shares in an Israeli drone manufacturer, which sold weapons to the Israeli military used in attacks on Palestinians.